Like being in a relationship with someone for too long, people who grew up with Thai food like me sometimes take the cuisine for granted. The likes of tom yum goong and som tam, for example, have become synonymous with Thai cuisine but they no longer put me on the edge of my dining chair.
You probably think you have explored every inch of Thai cuisine again and again, like the body of your long-time partner that is no longer a wonderland. However, like your better half who may have more moves up his/her pyjama pants, Thai food can still excite you with its hidden recipes - you just need to know the right place to find them. One such place is The Local, which offers plenty to reinvigorate your relationship with the cuisine.
The Local is brought to you by the same family who are behind the now-defunct Oam Thong Thai Cuisine and Naj in Soi Convent. The new brainchild of the family is housed in two main buildings amid a garden. Painted in the colour of mor hom pants, the front building looks rustic and laid-back on the outside with its decorations of old pots and family heirlooms. Cabinets filled with cookbooks and more antiques await in the corridor from which doors lead to four rooms for private dining, each classily decorated in different themes. There's a silk shop near the back door which opens to a bar area. The second building has two storeys and offers a more casual dining experience with both in- and outdoor options.
Not only is the ambience impressively diverse, the menu is too, as it contains dishes from all regions of Thailand as well as age-old recipes. Lemongrass salad with wild betel leaves (B220; prices subject to tax and service charge) is a native dish from the South. The salad is a gathering of flavours and textures rather than a dominance of spiciness and sourness that you may have come to expect from a yum.
Served with a basket of fresh greens that only an experienced botanist could name, Spicy yellow curry with fish, coconut milk and orange leaves (B280) may contain a few surprises even for native tongues. The smooth curry slowly turns up the body temperature while fish fillets balance out the heat with their mild and sweet flesh. The pairing game between the curry and different herbs also produces some piquant results.
If you've never sweated over a dish before, Geang runjuan (B240) should do the trick(le). Tender pieces of beef bathing in an aromatic but insanely strong soup should cause lovers of spicy food to drift in and out of pleasure and pain.
Stir-fried pak mieng with eggs (B180) looks a little like something a six-year-old might put together. But although a bit oily, it has the right balance between saltiness and sweetness while cloves of pickled garlic add some sharp taste into the mix.
Fish stewed with sugar cane, ginger and home-made sauce (B380) should please everyone in the family, from kids who still have their milk teeth to grandpas with fake ones. Thanks to it being slowly cooked for 30 hours, the barb's flesh melts in your month and you can eat its bones too. Tender stewed pork with special home-made sauce (B240) offers a similar melting sensation but also contains juicy chunks of meat.
About one-third of the Combination of home-made local ice cream (B180) works. The coconut and iced tea ice creams are turn-offs with their harsh texture while the combo of creamy mango ice cream and sticky rice is the redeemer. Boiled glutinous rice dumpling in coconut cream (B85) is also disappointing. I would have appreciated the stuffing of coconut and palm sugar more had it not been brought down by the watery coconut cream.
I went loco for the main dishes I've tasted at The Local but I didn't care much for the desserts. There are definitely two strong points that the venue has to offer: hard-to-come-by recipes and a rich ambience. The pricing is quite reasonable too, given the portions of food and grand effort put into creating the atmosphere. Those who have become jaded with Thai cuisine and want to go beyond the comfort zone marked by the usual suspects like phad thai and fried rice should find something new to excite their palate at The Local.
The Local by Oam Thong
Open 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30-11:30pm
32-32/1 Sukhumvit Soi 23
About the author
- Writer: Pornchai Sereemongkonpol
Position: Guru Reporter